I mentioned earlier that I helped out with Vacation Bible School at church this week. While the overall experience was positive there was one very surreal and disturbing moment toward the end of the week.

Toward the end of the evening the children’s pastor had everyone sit down and get very quiet. Which is not easy in a room full of 300+ young children but they did reasonably well. He then began explaining in simple terms that we were all sinners and that Christ died for us. That all we needed to do was to ask him to come in to our hearts and we could go to heaven. Then I heard the command: I want all heads bowed and all eyes closed.

From years and years of sitting in fundamentalist churches, revivals and rally meetings I recognized those words. Instantly I felt a strange creeping sensation inside of me. He’s not going to lead these children in the Sinner’s Prayer is he? Sure enough he began reciting the lines and having the children repeat the prayer in their hearts. When he was done he encouraged the children to talk to their leaders about “the very important decision you made tonight to follow Christ.” None of the children in my group approached me – they’d moved on to a discussion of which Power Rangers show is the best.

Call me strange and old-fashioned but I’m not sure what the point was in leading young children in the Sinner’s Prayer. Did they really understand it? Are they prepared to leave all and take up their cross and follow Jesus? Do they even know what it means to be a sinner in need of forgiveness? Maybe yes but I remember how I was at that age and I certainly had no clue.

This smacks again of cheap evangelism. Of “fire insurance” as we used to call it – getting someone “saved” as a way of simply preventing them from going to hell. Of emotionally manipulating someone (in this case rather small and impressionable someones) into making a decision without them being fully aware of what choices they are making. Is this truly the path Jesus wanted us to follow? Is this the way to bring young people into God’s kingdom?